Structural grants approved under CIP in Minto

MINTO – Town council has approved  structural grants worth a total of $30,000 for three local businesses under the municipality’s Community Improvement Program (CIP).

At the May 21 meeting council approved a $1,500 grant for April and Greg Desaulniers, owners of the former Rural Spoon Restaurant property on James Street in Palmerston.

“Since the restaurant moved locations and then changed ownership, the Desaulniers have been looking for alternative uses for their James Street property,” notes a report from business and economic manager Belinda Wick-Graham.

“In 2018/2019 they made some changes to the building to improve the usability/rent-ability of the property including energy efficiency upgrades (insulation, windows/doors) and electrical upgrades. The space now has a more usable commercial rental unit and continues to provide much needed rental accommodations.”

The eligible project costs total $15,811.

Council also approved a $12,327 grant for Glen and Jennifer Hall, who recently purchased an Elora Street building with the intent of moving their business (OSIM Interactive) into the location.

The existing building had a three bedroom up unit apartment which is being upgraded; an additional two bedroom apartment is being added on the main floor at the rear of the building.

“With the shortage of rental housing this is a great initiative,” notes Wick-Graham in her report.

Eligible elements of the project, which totals $60,750, include:

– upgrading electrical service and adding safety and exit lighting;

– spray foam insulation and new windows to improve energy efficiency;

– upgraded plumbing;

– new fire walls; and

– new heating system in back rental apartment.

A grant of $16,173 was approved for Lavallee Holdings Inc., which purchased a run-down Main Street property in Palmerston in the summer of 2018 and completed an extensive amount of work “transforming this building into a beautiful property on a main corner,” states the report.

The property previously had one commercial unit and was using another commercial unit as residential. There were also four apartments but the building was in disrepair. The newly renovated building now has four bachelor apartments that have all been rented and features two commercial units, of which one is already rented.

Eligible structural costs for this project total more than $80,000 and include: plumbing, heating and fire safety.

The structural grant component of the CIP was initiated in 2015 and has a 2019 budget of  $40,000.

“This specific program has been a significant driver of change in our downtowns and a major incentive for people to purchase and invest in these properties,” Wick-Graham stated in her report.

While the program’s leverage ratio at the end of 2018 for structural grants was $3.53 in eligible spending for ever $1 of grant money, Wick-Graham said the town is now aiming for a higher return on investment due to demand for the program and scale of the projects.

The total CIP budget, which includes façade and signage grant elements as well as the structural program, is $60,000.

Councillor Mark MacKenzie asked how much of the CIP funding comes from the province. Wick-Graham said the program is funded by the town.

“We don’t get anything? It’s all taxpayers’ money going into this?” asked MacKenzie.

Treasurer Gordon Duff pointed out the investments made by the building owners assisted by the program push up assessment, and ultimately generate more tax dollars.

“That’s kind of what’s in it for us in the long term is increased assessment,” he explained.

Mayor George Bridge pointed out the program also allows the town to fill a need for both commercial and residential spaces.

Bridge said the Palmerston Main Street project, for example, resulted in “Four units rented upstairs (by employees of) one of our local manufacturers … which is one of our big concerns we have from our manufacturers – there’s just no place for people to rent.”

“I think it’s important to note that for 10 years downtown revitalization has been a priority, the community has set it as a priority, and without this program you would not see these buildings being redone,” said Wick-Graham.

“Now we’re going to be able to bring businesses into downtown, whereas in Palmerston we couldn’t because there was nowhere to put people because the buildings were in such bad shape.”

“The buildings were almost condemned,” agreed Bridge.